You aren’t seeing things. I did just write that Dan Coleman and Kevin Peyton played key roles in the Gophers surprisingly lopsided 89-56 victory over the Bison. While both players had their best games of the season, it is admittedly a stretch to say either decided the game. In fact, it is a stretch to say Kevin Peyton had a good game, but given how Coleman and Peyton have played this season, this may my only opportunity to heap praises upon them at the same time.
If Dan Coleman didn’t have his athleticism, body, and overall skills, I would have very little reason to be frustrated with him. His numbers aren’t horrible. In fact, Jamal Abu-Shamala has become something of fan favorite with similar numbers. The fact is, Coleman is not Abu-Shamala, and should be much better than he has played so far. The reasons for his lack of output are still somewhat mysterious, but most certainly of the psychological/mental variety, and can only be overcome by playing through them. Realizing this, and apparently backtracking from his decision to bench players who are struggling, Tubby Smith played Coleman for 31 minutes, 8 minutes more than any other Gopher.
The Gopher forward is on his way back. Though he still needs to return to form in a few areas, he filled the stat sheet last night. He scored 15 points on 7-13 shooting, had 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 assists, and 2 blocks. Most importantly, he showed determined effort on both ends of the court, at one point rebounding his own miss three or four times before getting the tip in. He also stuck to what he is best at, finding openings in the zone for easy dunks and 10 foot jumpers. Of course, in what has so far been a disappointing season for Coleman, the story was not all positive. He committed four fouls in what was a very strangely officiated game, and also had four turnover including a dunk he missed by 10 feet (really). The stats were a bit inflated due to the opponent, but it was at least a game that can be built on.
Kevin Peyton, perhaps suffering from the same psychological issues that have afflicted Coleman, showed signs of what made him 25 ppg scorer and track and field superstar in high school. He didn’t shoot much, made some bad turnovers, but also managed to lead some stunning fast breaks and had a few other eye popping assists. I hesitate to say this, but nearing the five minute mark in the second half, he took over the game. Barring and miraculous recoveries by Travis Busch or Ryan Saunders, Kevin Payton will the last player off the bench, but at least he will be the best last player off the bench in the Big 10. Peyton is young, and given the complete system overhaul between his first and second year, it may be more instructive to consider this to be his freshman year. With 2+ years left under Tubby, Peyton may pull an Eric Harris type turn around, or he might continue to be the best worst player. Only time will tell.
As a team, the Gophers built off their improvements against UC-Riverside and completely dominated nearly all facets of the game. They were +3 on turnovers, +9 on rebounds, and outshot NDSU 53%-33%. As was the case against UC-Riverside, they forced nearly as many turnovers as field goals allowed, 19 and 20 respectively.
Against what many think will still be a dangerous team this year, the Gophers showed they are the team no one should overlook.
Who did what:
- Dan Coleman played his best game of the year, and hopefully has found a reason to be confident or at least interested.
- Jamal Abu-Shamala bled his own blood…alot. He left the game after taking what appeared to be an elbow to the bridge of his nose. After a few stitches and a few encouraging words from his mom, he was back in the game during the extended garbage time. He didn’t do much, but at least he is ok.
- Spencer Tollackson scored 8 points on 4-7 shooting, but had his playing time limited by fouls. He looked much better on the offensive end.
- Lawrence Westbrook had 11 points in 15 minutes, but turned the ball over three times.
- Lawrence McKenzie had an easy 11 points in 4 fouls.
- Al Nolen showed he can score when he wants to. He tied for the team lead with 15 points on 75% shooting. He had another 5 steals, and has to be a candidate for conference defensive player of the year.
- Kevin Peyton made a buzzer beating three in the first half and a wide open three in the second half. He also missed 3 other very makeable shots. But at least he is shooting…right?
- Jonathan Williams dominated when he was in the game. Dunking, passing, mid range jumpers, it was all there for him tonight.
- Blake Hoffarber was in double figures again with 10 points. He added 6 rebounds and 3 steals, showing he is more than a pretty jump shot.
- Damian Johnson is human, though a very energetic version of humanity. He had two points and 3 assists, but as usual, impacted the game in ways that aren’t easily reflected in the box score.
- Travis and Ryan seem to be a little too happy being injured.
- The crowd was big and loud. If NDSU fans were not there, the attendance would be about what it was for the other games, but The Barnyard was nearly full and the rest of the fans showed their appreciation for Gophers tough defense.
- Santa, or a very Santa looking Gopher fan remains a Barnyard favorite, but he insists on wearing red. Bad Santa.
The real reason the Gophers are so improved this year: Floor burns